We were super excited to meet Wolfgang Puck, Austrian celebrity chef, restaurateur and the person behind CUT at 45 Park Lane.
Wolfgang gave us some excellent insight in to his story thus far and also some great tips on how you could become a chef!
What is your story?
I started to cook when I was very young, I was 14. I left school when I was 14 and moved 50 miles away.
It was far away and all of a sudden I had to do my laundry, my socks and underwear. I had to make my whole life and become self sufficient!
I started off in Villach, Austria and the Chef was so mean I nearly killed myself once! It was only after 17 when I finished by apprenticeship. After moving to France, the restaurant and chef I worked with taught me that cooking is not about following a cookbook and standard recipe but rather about improvisation and I realised that it is all about being passionate. When I was 24 I moved to the US and since 1975 I have been in L.A.
How would you describe your style?
I do so many different things! One can never have a particular style, if you were to compare my love for cooking to music it would mean that I would love to sing Jazz,Opera and Rap all at the same time, so why limit oneself to a particular style?
The inspiration behind CUT was soul food. There are more Steak Houses in NYC and Beverly Hills than one would find anywhere else. I like meat grilled on wood burning fire. We wanted to be a Cutting Edge Steak Restaurant. We opened CUT almost seven and a half years ago. We opened in Las Vegas, Singapore and here (London) and now the next one in Dubai. People like good ingredients and those that are prepared in a very simple way.
What keeps you inspired?
I love what I do and I love to do new things. We love to try and learn how we can do things better. Right now in L.A. we are building a new kitchen and we have the latest equipment but yet the traditional wood burning grills and wood burning ovens. I remember I tried to do the Peking Duck. I used to wonder 'how can I do it?' For me personally, the Chinese duck is the best you could get and that is what I wanted to master.
Getting something right is an important part of my motivation to continue to learn.
For instance practice has taught me that fish if cooked slow for a couple of minutes in a pouch with your choice of spices and then finished off on the wood burning grill is the best for me. Because we have so many different restaurants from upscale Chinese to steakhouses to Spago; there are more Asian influences on my restaurants. I am the one who makes the overall vision of what it is. I constantly keep challenging my chefs and I would like them to think about how we can be on top of the game constantly.
What is your own favourite meal?
I like small portions of everything. I don't like to sit too long at dinner! I don't like seeing too many big portions in front of me.When we opened the first CUT in America we had a lot of smaller steaks on the menu like 8 ounces of meat on the main menu. This means it is not limited as a menu for men but every woman can even enjoy the portions. I wanted the women to be able to enjoy the food. You want to still feel good at the end of your meal and not feel overwhelmed.
What is your ideal day out in London?
When I come here I go out very little. Ideally I would go to Saville Row and order a suit. I spend most of the time in the restaurant. Sometimes we go to Alain Ducasse or China Tang. The children love the parks and love to go to Freggo for ice cream. Every experience is different for us in London every time.
What is your advice to budding chefs?
Young chefs are not patient. If you have a traditional upbringing like we do in Europe you will realise how important the basics are. Because of television and the exposure youngsters have these days for instance in the US, Americans will go on TV but they may not know how to cook. For example I was a judge on a show called Top Chef.
I asked the production team to arrange the counters accordingly with eggs, potential fillings and ingredients as I would ask them (the contestants) to make an omelette. Very few even chose ingredients. Nobody knew how to make an omelette. I wanted to fire them all! They did not know the technique of making an omelette. My advice is you must focus on the basics.
What should a first time visitor to CUT expect?
People who come to CUT can experience different kinds of meat, it is the best place for you to have various kinds of steaks. You can get any kind of steak you like here. We have some interesting appetizers and desserts. The best part is you can enjoy the bar and eat there if you like.
What do you enjoy the most?
Variety is the spice of life. I like the meat, the best I enjoy is the Dover sole as it is a specialty here! I also highly recommend salads and vegetables, they are as important as the protein.